Q&A: Follow-Up After a Course
byAugust 25th, 2014
Carolyn Felux answered the following question about effective follow-up after a five-day course.
Q. I am a school principal and many of my teachers attended a Math Solutions five-day course last summer. What can I do to sustain the motivation and excitement I see? How can I ensure that teachers continue to try out new strategies and skills throughout the school year?
A. This is just the right question to ask—it shows you understand that new learning from professional development requires ongoing attention and support. Below are ideas that we think can help you encourage and set expectations for teachers to use what they learned from their Math Solutions Professional Development experience.
The best way to get started is by talking to your teachers. Take the time to meet with each one individually. Ask them to tell you about their experience taking the course last summer and listen carefully to what they have to say: “Did you find the course worthwhile? What did you learn that was most important to you? What are you doing in your classroom as a result of the course? How’s it going?”
While you’re meeting with your teachers, find out what they need: “What kind of support can I give you to help you through the year?” Early on, your teachers may not know what they need, but returning to this question throughout the year sends a message about your interest in and attention to their needs.
Offer On-Site Support
Many teachers describe the five-day summer courses as “transformational.” They say they can’t wait to return to their classrooms and start implementing the new strategies and skills they have gained. They return to school invigorated and enthused about the year ahead. As the building principal, you can capitalize on this enthusiasm with on-site support that will build upon and reinforce the summer course experience. Here are a few ideas that we’ve seen principals use successfully.
Classroom Visits. Show your support by making informal visits to your teachers’ classrooms. These visits are a source of information for you to help provide encouragement and acknowledgment to your teachers, especially in the beginning. The more you learn from your teachers, the better you can work together to strategize new ways to refine and enhance the initial inservice experience.
Group Discussions. Once you’ve met with teachers individually, bring them together as a group. Having attended a summer course together, they will likely have information to exchange and new stories to share. This type of networking offers an excellent opportunity for follow-up, as teachers discuss how their activities and lessons are working now that they are back in the classroom.
Sharing. Teachers have strong influences on one another and look to each other for ideas and help. Encourage your teachers to make public displays of student work resulting from the new activities and investigations they have implemented. Invite teachers to informally share their excitement and successes at faculty meetings.
Observations. In conjunction with group discussions, encourage and arrange for teachers to observe each other in class. These experiences will facilitate future group discussions and provide insights into the way the summer course experience has shaped their approach to teaching math.
Common Grade-Level Planning Time. When there are several teachers at a grade level who have attended a five-day Math Solutions course, common grade-level planning time provides opportunities for collaborative efforts in implementing new learning. Teachers plan together to try out new experiences and strategies with their students. They can come back together to see what worked and what didn’t work, and then think together about how to adjust and refine their instruction.
Book Studies. Sometimes in schools, teachers will get together and do a book study. This would be a good way for teachers to build upon some of the topics and skills reviewed over the summer. Classroom communication, for example, is an area many teachers want to know more about. Your teachers may be wondering, “How can I encourage student dialogues about math? What kind of questions should I be asking?” Books like Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn and the Good Questions for Math Teaching two-book series help address teachers’ specific concerns.
Follow-Up Professional Development. Your teachers will appreciate follow-up opportunities to build upon the skills they’ve learned and refine the strategies they have put into place. You may choose to set up an all-day session where new content can be learned. Math Solutions offers sessions like these as well as on-site support in the form of technical assistance. This technical support can include lesson demonstrations, observations of your teachers during lesson activities, and opportunities for debriefing and feedback.
Books. During the summer course, your teachers reviewed a variety of activities and topics. Math Solutions publications offer them a way to stay connected to these topics and delve deeper into refining their lessons over the year. There may be one or two books, in particular, that teachers feel will address specific curriculum issues reflected in your educational plan—books that many of your teachers would benefit from reading.
Math Solutions Online Newsletter. This free resource provides new, classroom-tested lessons from the field, the latest inservice and publications information, and a place where teachers and administrators can go for answers to pertinent questions.
Just as your teachers turn to you for encouragement, we hope you will continue to turn to Math Solutions and share your challenges and ideas for supporting improved instruction. We look forward to hearing from you with updates as the year unfolds.